Off to My Happy Place

a1ab2cece6b762b0a278d691381ee6ee Everyone should have a happy place---a mental location that you can visit in your mind when you need a little peace and well-being. (And ideally, visit for real every now and then.) For a long time, my happy place has been this:

peter_pan

The Peter Pan ride at Magic Kingdom.

A few years ago I acquired a second one: the Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research, sponsor of wonderful writing workshops, purveyor of gracious Benedictine hospitality.

See you in a week or so. In the meantime, a friend of mine sent me this poem for inspiration. A gift:

“Do You Have Any Advice For Those of Us Just Starting Out?" Ron Koertge

Give up sitting dutifully at your desk. Leave your house or apartment. Go out into the world.

It's all right to carry a notebook but a cheap one is best, with pages the color of weak tea and on the front a kitten or a space ship.

...Read the rest at the Library of Congress.

Write well. Love well. Live well.

Such Beauty and What the Meaning

Especially for my local friends. Mary Oliver's "First Snow," from the Improvised Life: imrs

The snow began here this morning and all day continued, its white rhetoric everywhere calling us back to why, how, whence, such beauty and what the meaning; such an oracular fever! flowing past windows, an energy it seemed would never ebb, never settle less than lovely! and only now deep into night, it has finally ended. The silence is immense, and the heavens still hold a million candles; nowhere the familiar things: the stars, the moon, the darkness we expect and nightly turn from. Trees glitter like castles of ribbons, the broad fields smolder with light, a passing creekbed lies heaped with shining hills; and though the questions that have assailed us all day remain–not a single answer has been found– walking out now into the silence and the light under the trees, and through the fields, feels like one.

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Image from the Capital Weather Gang

Sabbath Molasses

latestMy friend Becca passed this along to me. It's a poem/prayer by Steve Garnaas-Holmes on his Unfolding Light blog. Go there. Yes... yes. I needed this. Today would have been my father's 66th birthday. It is a rock-em-sock-em day... but in the midst of it, I will remember him.

God, I am rushing, just brushing by, passing my life on the street without greeting, breathless and ceaseless, skimming my life without taking it in, distracted and fractured and shallow.

Be the lead in my life, the molasses, the waist-deep snow. Be the awkward weight, the icy walk, the dark room with rearranged furniture that forces me to go slow and pay attention. Give me a weak heart, a breathing condition that makes me pause now and then and begin again, slowly. Be my fine print, a foreign language so I lean forward, listening to each word. Be the unseen voice for which I look around, the smell of baking bread that makes me back up to an open door. Be my stillness, my Sabbath, my stopping, the Enough that it is to be here. Even as I go, give me courage to give up, to accomplish nothing, to get deeply, truly nowhere at all but here.

Photo: the pitch drop experiment, with which my girls are obsessed.

Friday Link Love: Online Slacktivism, Be a Poet, and Everest Gear Then and Now

Hello friends! It's Thursday evening and I am just back from Birmingham, where I had a book event and also preached at the Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley. I'll post that sermon to the NEXT Church website early next week and link to it here. It was a fun trip---got to hang out with Elizabeth, one of my favorite seminary peeps and a dear friend. So I'm happy, but tired.

But... the Link Love must go on! 

Climbing Everest, Then and Now -- National Geographic

A comparison of the tools used to climb the world's tallest peak. Boots and oxygen systems, then and now.

Let's be honest: P90X or no, I'm pretty sure our forebears could take us.

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Does Online "Slacktivism" Reduce Charitable Giving? -- New Scientist

Looks like it's a hybrid effect. Click the link for a study relating to attitudes about gun control.

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Collected Wisdom of Great Writers -- Brain Pickings

Maria Popova has compiled advice from several writers she's highlighted on her blog, so it's all accessible in one place. Vonnegut, King, Allende, Sontag and more.

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Cook Dinner, Save the World -- Dinner, a Love Story

Love this quote from Michael Pollan:

To cook or not to cook thus becomes a consequential question. Though I realize that is putting the matter a bit too bluntly. Cooking means different things at different times to different people; seldom is it an all-or-nothing proposition. Yet even to cook a few more nights a week than you already do, or to devote a Sunday to make a few meals for the week, or perhaps to try every now and again to make something you only ever expected to buy — even these modest acts will constitute a kind of vote. A vote for what exactly? Well, in a world where so few of us are obliged to cook at all anymore, to choose to do so is to lodge a protest against specialization — against the total rationalization of life. Against the infiltration of commercial interests into every last cranny of our lives. To cook for the pleasure of it, devote a portion of our leisure to it, is to declare our independence from the corporations seeking to organize our every waking moment into yet another occasion for consumption. (Come to think of it, our non waking moments as well: Ambien anyone?) It is to reject the debilitation notion that, at least while we’re at home, production is work done by someone else, and the only legitimate form of leisure is consumption. This dependence marketers call “freedom.”

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Antonia Larroux -- Obituary

Not since Hugh Gallagher's infamous college essay for NYU (the laws of physics do not apply to me) have we have such an exuberant accounting of a life! This part really clinched it though:

The funeral will be led by Rev. Curt Moore of Orlando, Florida, a questionable choice for any spiritual event, but one the family felt would be appropriate due to the fact that every time Toni heard Curt preach she prayed for Jesus to return at that very moment.

On a last but serious note, the woman who loved life and taught her children to 'laugh at the days to come' is now safely in the arms of Jesus and dancing at the wedding feast of the Lamb. She will be missed as a mother, friend and grandmother. Anyone wearing black will not be admitted to the memorial. She is not dead. She is alive.

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Smart Cities: Sustainable Solutions for Urban Living -- BBC

H/t The Dish, which highlighted this piece that I found astounding:

How a group of 12-year-olds in a Calcutta slum improved their community:

Like so many slum neighborhoods, the notorious Nehru Colony doesn’t officially exist, meaning it has no access to government services such as sanitation and electricity. The youngsters set out to literally put themselves on the map. They went door to door, taking photos with their mobile phones, registering residents and detailing each child born in the colony. Information is then sent by SMS text to a database that links the data to a map hand-drawn by the kids, which is overlaid to GPS coordinates. By registering their existence on Google Maps the group has doubled the rate of polio vaccination from 40% to 80%, decreased diarrhea and malaria rates in the slum, and is lobbying for electricity.

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This Ad Has a Secret Anti-Abuse Message That Only Kids Can See -- Gizmodo

This made the rounds, and rightly so. The billboard displays a different message depending on how tall you are:

The secret behind the ad's wizardry is a lenticular top layer, which shows different images at varying angles. So when an adult—or anyone taller than four feet, five inches—looks at it they only see the image of a sad child and the message: "sometimes, child abuse is only visible to the child suffering it." But when a child looks at the ad, they see bruises on the boy's face and a different message: "if somebody hurts you, phone us and we’ll help you" alongside the foundation's phone number.

The ad is designed to empower kids, particularly if their abuser happens to be standing right next to them.

What the kids see:

anar-lenticular-02

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How Can You Become a Poet -- David Lose

Or a theologian:

Eve Mirriam, a native of Philadelphia, captures something of the beauty of not just poetry but also, I think, creativity itself.

She invites us to consider making two moves: the first is attentiveness. Trace it’s shape, pay attention to its movement, follow its life, chew and smell and see and feel all you can about that thing that fascinates you.

The second move is courage, fearlessness...

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Friday Link Love

Can you believe this is my 108th Link Love? That's about 2 years of collecting bits and pieces of stuff. Like a magpie. I should probably go on hiatus at some point. Don't want to get stuck in a rut. Maybe this summer. In the meantime... here we go!

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Modern Art Desserts -- Brain Pickings

This is from a few weeks ago--I've been saving it.

modernartdesserts3

More at the link.

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Perfectionism as Paralysis -- David Foster Wallace

Courtesy of The Dish and a good adjunct to my post about perfectionism and failure the other day, an animated clip of DFW talking in 1996 about perfectionism, ambition... and tennis:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=w5R8gduPZw4

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The Good Kind of Crazy -- David Lose

After filling me in on some of the latest and greatest ideas she’s had about the church she leads, she stopped and said, “You know, you’re about the only person I know who doesn’t think I’m crazy when I talk this way.”

“Actually,” I replied with a smile, “I think you’re crazy too. But the church needs crazy right now.”

...My friend is perceived as a little crazy. She’s not content with the same old thing, only better. She wants something new. So she has the youth of her church lead worship and participate in the sermon. She doesn’t do confirmation anymore, but instead finds ways to gather her youth around conversations about faith, life, and life lived faithfully. And this summer they’re not singing hymns at her church, but pop songs. And talking about popular YouTube videos. And other crazy stuff.

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On that note... maybe this is an example of the good kind of crazy, albeit from another era:

100 Years Later, a Time Capsule is Opened -- Yahoo! News

The First Lutheran Church of Oklahoma City dug up and opened its Century Chest, a time capsule that was buried under the church 100 years ago.

The artifacts inside the copper chest were remarkably well intact. Credit for that goes to the church's Ladies Aide Society, the group that buried the capsule a century ago. The group buried the chest in double concrete walls and under 12 inches of concrete, according to Fox News.

As my friend Alex Hendrickson said, "Varsity level church ladies." Seriously.

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For a Student of Theology, Poetry Reverberates -- NPR

My favorite class in seminary was The Preacher and the Poet, so Robert sent this to me with the subject line "MaryAnn bait."

I read a lot of theology, both for my degree and for my professional track, and sometimes I think poetry, whether or not it's explicitly religious, is one of the best modes that theology, or talking about God, can take. ... Poetry is a form where the language is under so much pressure, and that can really bring about these wonderful surprises and insights in our ways of talking about God or thinking about our faith.

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The Best Lesson My Kids Ever Taught Me -- Practicing Families

The author describes the experience of having a newborn and always having to think about the next thing. Ohhhh yeah. That kind of extreme time maximization is part of what led us to Sabbath, when we can turn off (or at least mute) those endless calculations:

I was always planning ahead for the next step of the operation. It’s breakfast time. Eat because we have to get dressed! Get dressed because we have to go to baby class! Finish baby class so we can get home for nap! Get nap started so I can have writing time! Hurry, hurry through writing before the baby wakes up! Get ready so we can go to the park! Finish up at the park so we can get home so I can make dinner! And on and on…We were still on that hamster wheel, still always urgently moving forward to the next item on the agenda.

It wasn’t my schedule that was the problem. It was the fact that during every activity we engaged in, my mind was already on the next one.

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Journey to the Center of the Earth: Glimpse Inside an Active Volcano -- Colossal

I didn't do Kid Link Love this week but if I had, this would've been featured. Volcanoes are so awesome. This planet is doin' stuff:

volcano-8

 

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Speaking of Kid Links, I shared this one with my girls:

A Wet Towel in Space is Not Like a Wet Towel on Earth -- NPR

I've gotta think that zero gravity tourism will happen in our lifetimes. Which is irrelevant for me since I get motion sick on a porch swing. So I'll have to content myself with videos like this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=o8TssbmY-GM

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Have a wonderful weekend, everyone. We've got a party Saturday night and I'm leading a retreat after church on Sunday. A full weekend but a good one. Peace.

Friday Link Love: Flying Houses, Being a Mystic, and Mighty Girls... One of Whom with Toilet Covers on Her Head

First, if you haven't already heard me shouting from the rooftops about it, here is my interview about Sabbath in the Suburbs on Huffington Post Books. Another note. I share links to interesting, inspiring, curious content all week long at my Facebook page. Feel free to subscribe to the public updates, even if we're not FB friends!

Lots of images in Link Love this week, and a few meaty quotes. Onward...

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Flying Houses by Laurent Cherere -- Colossal

Wonderful. Like something out of Roald Dahl:

laurent-2

laurent-4

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Top Read-Aloud Books Starring Mighty Girls -- A Mighty Girl

This is one I shared on Facebook. Great list! I want to read them all.

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Christian Wiman on Faith and Language -- Andrew Sullivan

Another one I shared earlier this week, but dang, I like it:

To have faith in a religion, any religion, is to accept at some primary level that its particular language of words and symbols says something true about reality. This doesn't mean that the words and symbols are reality (that's fundamentalism), nor that you will ever master those words and symbols well enough to regard reality as some fixed thing. What it does mean, though, is that you can 'no more be religious in general than [you] can speak language in general' (George Lindbeck), and that the only way to deepen your knowledge and experience of ultimate divinity is to deepen your knowledge and experience of the all-too-temporal symbols and language of a particular religion. Lindbeck would go so far as to say that your religion of origin has such a bone-deep hold on you that, as with a native language, it's your only hope for true religious fluency. I wouldn't go that far, but I would say that one has to submit to symbols and language that may be inadequate in order to have those inadequacies transcended.

This is true of poetry, too: I don't think you can spend your whole life questioning whether language can represent reality. At some point, you have to believe that the inadequacies of words you use will be transcended by the faith with which you use them. You have to believe that poetry has some reach into reality itself, or you have to go silent. - Christian Wiman, "Notes on Poetry and Religion," from Ambition and Survival: Becoming a Poet.

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Stoic, Addict, Mystic -- Andrew Sullivan

Another one posted on The Dish this week:

We are rarely presented with an authentically fulfilling trajectory for our desires... If we are created for infinite satisfaction, we really only have three choices about what to do with our desire in this life: We will become either a stoic, an addict, or a mystic. The stoic squelches desire out of fear, while the addict attempts to satisfy his desire for infinity with finite things, which, of course, can’t satisfy. That’s why the addict wants more and more and more. The mystic, on the other hand — in the Christian sense of the term — is the one who is learning how to direct his desire for infinity toward infinity," - Christopher West, whose new book is Fill These Hearts.

For infinity, toward infinity. Nice.

Winners of the 2012 National Geographic Photo Contest -- National Geographic

A cat picture won! Sort of. Go to the link to see the grand prize winner, as well as all the other top picks. My favorite in the "people" category:

H6yMi6fUB_1JR964xxG8RxsYArlNNn1lR5PWutchIb-0b1wahCLwPmHficO2saD0RkzVCatVnWrRPg

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Unleash Your Unconscious: How Switching Tasks Maximizes Creative Thinking -- 99U

Incubation breaks boosted creative performance, but only when the time was spent engaged in a different kind of mental activity. Participants who in the break switched from verbal to spatial, or from spatial to verbal, excelled when they returned to their main task – in terms of the number and quality of their solutions. The change in focus freed up their unconscious to spend the incubation period tackling the main challenge.

Highly recommend running, for people with the knees for it.

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Embracing Mystery in the New Year: Ten Essential Practices -- Christian Valters Paintner

Follow the thread. Each of us has a unique unfolding story and call in this world. We don't "figure this out" but rather we allow the story to emerge in its own time, tending the symbols and synchronicities that guide us along. Trust in what you love. Following the thread is essentially about cultivating a deep trust in what you love. What are the things that make your heart beat loudly, no matter how at odds they feel with your current life (and perhaps especially so)? Make some room this year to honor what brings you alive.

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Airplane Lavatory Self-Portraits -- Sad and Useless

h/t Keith Snyder.

Nina Katchadourian whiles away long plane journeys by locking herself in the lavatory and pretending to be a 15th century Dutch painting. The project began spontaneously on a flight in March 2010 and is ongoing…

I do think about the line forming outside the door while she's doing this, but:

lav3

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Have a wonderful weekend!

'Our Ugly Failure to Evolve' -- On the Mystery of the Incarnation, after Newtown

160229699212188623"On the Mystery of the Incarnation" It's when we face for a moment the worst our kind can do, and shudder to know the taint in our own selves, that awe cracks the mind's shell and enters the heart: not to a flower, not to a dolphin, to no innocent form but to this creature vainly sure it and no other is god-like, God (out of compassion for our ugly failure to evolve) entrusts, as guest, as brother, the Word.

-Denise Levertov (h/t Andrew Foster Connors)

Image source

Friday Link Love

Away we go: ~

Winners of the National Geographic Photo Contest -- The Atlantic

My favorite:

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New Orleans Pastor Known as 'Da Condom Father' Couldn't Just Watch People Die -- Nola.com

According to the article, black people are 32 percent of the Louisiana population but, according to the state Department of Health and Human Hospitals, account for 73 percent of the newest HIV cases and 76 percent of the cases that progressed to AIDS. So this pastor hands out condoms to his parishioners and community. For him the ethics is clear:

Is such the Lord's work? Davenport is convinced it is. What is he supposed to do? Stand back and see his people die ? Preach to them about sexual purity -- then stand back and see his people die?

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Julia Child Visits Mister Rogers's Neighborhood -- The Fred Rogers Company

A video from the archives, in honor of that wonderful dame's 100th birthday:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zs0-NA9EZGY] ~

The 'Open' Office is a Source of Stress -- Time

The modern open office was designed for team building and camaraderie but is mostly distinguished by its high noise levels, lack of privacy and surfeit of both digital and human distractions. And indeed, several decades of research have confirmed that open-plan offices are generally associated with greater employee stress, poorer co-worker relations and reduced satisfaction with the physical environment.

Do you work in an open office environment? What do you think of it, dear readers?

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War Some of the Time -- Writers Almanac

A great one from Bukowski:

when you write a poem it needn't be intense it can be nice and easy and you shouldn't necessarily be concerned only with things like anger or love or need; at any moment the greatest accomplishment might be to simply get up and tap the handle on that leaking toilet;

More at the link.

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Why Be Grateful? -- Jana Riess

There's actual science between the practice of gratitude:

In one experiment, students were given different topics on which they had to write a paper. Some students were then given scathing criticism of their papers, while others were praised lavishly.

Then all the students were given the opportunity to go up against their teachers/ graders in a computer game. Not surprisingly, the students who had been sharply criticized retaliated in kind during the game, blasting the heck out of the perpetrators who had made their lives miserable. The ones who had been praised were not aggressive in the game.

And then things got really interesting. There was one exception to the rule about students who had been criticized turning around and retaliating.  This was a small group of the mocked students who had been assigned in their papers to enumerate the things they were grateful for in their lives.

Here’s the thing: those students who had written about gratitude didn’t react negatively to the criticism they received on their papers. They did not retaliate in the computer game.

Apparently, the simple act of counting their blessings had given them enough positive reinforcement about their lives that any criticism of their papers just rolled right off them.

I've been working on gratitude this week. It's been hard. I am very concerned for a family in our church whose little boy is battling ALD and he continues to struggle. I feel very weighed down on their behalf. But I'm trying.

Videos like this help:

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My Own Rice -- Church World Service

I love Church World Service. They are a modest organization but very effective, with low overhead. Remember that old Cadillac slogan, "quietly doing things very well"? That's CWS.

Here's a story of a young boy in Myanmar who was one of two survivors of a flood in his village. He received a micro-loan and is now growing his own rice.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgdURbGdZts]

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Peace be with you, friends.

Bonus Mid-Week Link Love

Friends, thank you so much for your support for my book. I cherish your can-do attitude and your willingness to write reviews, make connections, suggest it to your friends... and pre-order. One thing I forgot to mention---there will be a discussion guide for groups, Sunday School classes, etc. Stay tuned!

Last night I finally finished an article for the Journal for Preachers that was due a week ago, and I'm wiped. Meanwhile, I've found a lot of candidates for Link Love this week. So here's a little bonus, one silly, one sublime.

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The Anthem Olympics -- Grantland

A "competition" between the different national anthems. A fun sendup of NBC's Olympics coverage. Regarding the United States anthem:

We can only admire the wisdom of the American people for selecting as their anthem a song that directly confronts the single most painful moment from their history: The time when Francis Scott Key didn't know who had won the battle for Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. The chord progression might be stodgy, the melody might be hard to sing, but the words — words about not being able to see very well when peering over the side of an 18th-century sailing ship — remain as true today as they were the day they were written.

Bob Costas's Take: "Here's an amusing story: It's being said that many members of Team USA didn't like the food in the Olympic Village … and then they realized there was a McDonald's right there. Pepper?"

Pepper Bohannan's Take: "You know, Bob, the U.S. doesn't have a reputation as an anthem country. It was a surprise to many people that they made the medal round at all. Up next, we'll talk about this perception with each American anthemer individually for 20 minutes."

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The Real Work -- Wendell Berry

Perhaps you saw this one too from the Writers Almanac:

It may be that when we no longer know what to do we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

Spectacular.

Happy Wednesday, everyone.

Image: Gold medalist in judo Kayla Harrison of the United States reacts as the national anthem is played.